Junior pitcher Kelsey Aikey registered 13 strikeouts while earning both a save and a win as Western Kentucky softball picked up a pair of Saturday victories at the Sand Dollar Classic in Gulf Shores, Ala.
The Hilltoppers recorded a come-from-behind 4-3 win over Florida A&M in the opener, then earned a 5-0 win over Tennessee State in the nightcap to move to 3-1 on the season. WKU's Kendall Smith launched a pair of home runs against Tennessee State.
In the opener, the Hilltoppers scored in the first inning on an RBI base hit by Shannon Plese. WKU pitcher Kennedy Sullivan opened the second with her fourth and fifth strikeouts of the game before Florida A&M plated a pair of runs to take the lead.
FAMU added to its lead in the top of the third with an unearned run on an RBI single to push its advantage to 3-1.
WKU responded in the bottom of the third by sending eight batters to the plate. Jordan Vorbrink got the inning started with a one-out single and Rebekah Engelhardt followed up with a walk. Two batters later, Sullivan drew a walk to load the bases for Paige Carter who also walked to bring in a run. Kendall Smith followed with a two-run double to center field for the WKU lead.
Sullivan worked into the top of the fifth before Kelsey Aikey relieved her and got WKU out of a two-on, one-out jam with just four pitches. Sullivan collected nine strikeouts.
Aikey earned the save, the sixth of her career. During her 2 1/3 innings of relief, she didn't allow a hit while striking out four.
Against Tennessee State, WKU's first three batters reached base via error, fielder’s choice and a double before Engelhardt sent a sacrifice fly to left field to score Vorbrink for the eventual winning run.
The Hilltoppers tacked onto their lead after a Jordan Thomas double to left-center field scored Morgan McElroy. In the bottom of the fourth, Smith connected for her first homer to push the Tops’ advantage to 3-0.
Later in the contest, Carter added to the lead with a sacrifice bunt that plated Plese from third base. Three pitches later, Smith hit her second home run of the game.
After closing out the day’s opening game, Aikey turned around and matched her career-high with nine strikeouts.
Smith finished 3-for-5 with four RBIs, while Plese was 3-for-6.
On Sunday, WKU will take on South Alabama at 10 a.m. to close out its opening weekend slate from the Gulf Shores Sportsplex.